Canada immigration policy critics call for overhaul

Tue Sep 28, 2010 6:13pm EDT
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By John McCrank

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada must overhaul its immigration and refugee system or risk overwhelming social services and driving up unemployment, a new lobby group says, echoing one side of a political issue that has raged in the United States and Europe.

The Center for Immigration Policy Reform, which introduced itself at a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, says politicians are too concerned about winning the votes of new Canadians to admit that the system is broken.

Canada was built on immigration, and one of every six Canadian residents was born outside the country. It accepts about 250,000 immigrants and 175,000 foreign temporary workers a year.

But the group says the country's social system cannot handle so many newcomers, and the flow of immigrants is overwhelming its labor markets, with the unemployment rate now at about 7 percent.

The group includes some well-known names from the political mainstream, such as Derek Burney a former adviser to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and one-time U.S. ambassador; James Bissett, a former ambassador and director general of the Canadian Immigration Service; and Martin Collacott, a former ambassador and currently a senior fellow at the right-leaning Fraser Institute think-tank.

"All of the political parties want mass migration," Bissett said at a press conference in Ottawa. "They see them as potential voters. That's the only reason they set a quarter of a million people coming in each year."

Immigration Minster Jason Kenney was not immediately available for comment.

Immigration became a hot button issue in the United States and Europe years ago, but opposition to Canada's relatively generous policies has been muted in the vast, sparsely populated country.   Continued...